At this point I thought I would have narrowed down my topic for thesis. (Fortunately or) Unfortunately I am still expanding the possibilities for my topic but seem to be approaching something that really resonates with me. I keep returning to the topic of awareness of place, as well as the connection with a local community and its history. This weekend I re-read parts of No Logo by Naomi Klein and realized that it is the contemporary equivalent of Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord. Klein makes Debord’s theory concrete with details on the mergers and acquisitions that limit our consumer choice. Branded retail environments like Barnes and Noble replace the library as the literary destination; malls have replaced the traditional notion of the town square. Media companies have merged to the point that all of our news and entertainment come from a total of three companies, and independent filmmakers and distributors struggle to have a voice against this well-connected competition.
But it’s capitalism, one might argue, and America has grown fat and happy with the conglomer-nation formula! Yes it has, but we’ve also lost many opportunities for those with differing viewpoints to be heard. There will be a popular backlash if the one-way communication of mass media outlets continues in this way. Consumers will exercise their power of choice to buy products from companies that are the most transparent. Transparency will in turn lead to better corporate ethics and programs that benefit the community.
Globalism will not stop, but we can preserve the shreds of culture that we have left in our communities. Self-replicating clones like TGI Fridays (that just opened two blocks away) can integrate programs that respect the community they are homogenizing, through the in-store environment or takeaway items. ‘Brooks of Sheffield’ wrote the Lost City blog for many years, lamenting the disappearing cultural destinations in New York City. He compiles a list of remaining classics here, considering them the last few iconic utterly New York destinations. Another interesting blog bent on historical preservation, Forgotten NY documents much of the urban scenery that just doesn’t exist anymore.
One design solution for this problem is to put it in the hands of the people. We have lost so much of our cultural landscape at the hands of largely unregulated corporations, it’s time to take the power back. Excuse me while I start coming up with an inspiring and motivational speech to rally the people, but in the meantime check out these beautiful town logos created by Japanese designers to represent their distinct locality. These designs represent a symbol of the importance of place for each individual.